Washington, DC was well-represented, with the inclusion of Chutzpah from Georgetown University. UMD College Park, my once and future graduate school, featured three a capella groups—Kol Sasson, Rak Shalom and Mezumenet. Also in attendance were Jewish Fella A Capella from Brandeis U, Kaskeset from SUNY Binghampton, Shabbatones from University of Pennsylvania, Staam from Washington University of St. Louis, and Tizmoret from Queens College in New York.
Each group performed two songs, and were judged by a panel including Jordan Gorfinkel, founder of the premiere professional Jewish a capella group Beat’achon; Jason Diamond, editor-in-chief of Jewcy.com; Wayne L. Firestone, President of Hillel International; Cantor Jeffrey Weber of Adas Israel; and Mike Boxer, also master of ceremonies, who hosts KolCast, the monthly podcast dedicated to Jewish a capella, and is producer and director of Six13, among other endeavors.
A personal note—I’ve been a singer and/or former singer for 20 years, since I was a small child, mostly choral arrangements, including, once or twice, singing at Adas Israel during High Holidays. A capella is a style that I have the least amount of in depth knowledge, but these groups really blew me away with their creative compositions, spanning from traditional religious adaptations to parodies of popular songs, as well as their beautiful harmonies and snappy choreography. It was also a highly interactive performance, with the audience members clapping along and sending in text messages for the audience favorite (the Shabbatones won that one.) The entire two and a half hour-long concert seemed to go by in an instant, until the part where we had to wait for the judges to tally their scores. 😛 Beyond Tizmoret winning best group they also won for best solo, and Staam won for best arrangement.
I left hoping this is the start of a great new tradition. As noted often throughout the evening, Jews are a people who have been singing songs in the synagogue or around the table for thousands of years. We need all the opportunities we can get to honor Jews in song, particularly young Jews. Congratulations to all of the performers, and all the people who made this night possible!